IFLA SL Newsletter

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Creating Life-long Learners: one school’s use of IL in England

Anne-Marie Tarter, School Librarian
Ripon Grammar School
Ripon, North Yorkshire

In England there is at present no statutory requirement for schools to have a qualified librarian or even a library. While there are some very exciting developments in information literacy (IL)  happening in  schools, these are due to the work of individual librarians rather than any national educational imperative.  For although there are elements of IL embedded in the English National Curriculum, there is no official recognition of IL as a unique set of skills to be developed in any systematic way.  However, this may be about to change.

Earlier this year the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) published a document entitled ‘Good School Libraries making a difference to learning’ in which they identified factors that were evident in schools whose libraries were making a positive impact on   teaching and learning. Their conclusions were based on OFSTED’s inspection of thirty-two schools during the academic year 2004-05. One of the major conclusions of the OFSTED report was the importance of a coherent programme of IL skills development in the most effective schools:
The quality of pupils’ information literacy skills [in many of the schools visited] was often unsatisfactory.  Many pupils struggled to locate and to make use of information. The most effective schools had put in place systematic programmes for teaching these skills.[1]

The report goes onto to add that the most beneficial IL programmes were those that attempted to develop the skills in a variety of curricular contexts and progressively over time.   This official recognition of the value of IL skills development in individual schools by OFSTED may lead eventually to a more national acceptance of IL as part of the curriculum.

For the past sixteen years I have been the librarian at Ripon Grammar School, a co-educational, academically selective state school  with 820 pupils aged 11-18 and located in rural North Yorkshire.  In that time I have put in place a programme of IL development that is delivered to all pupils aged 11-14 via a wide range of curricular subjects.  I started simply  with one project for Year 7 pupils (aged 11-12) in which the pupils researched the earth’s place in the Solar System as part of the Physics curriculum. The Head of Physics was so impressed by the ways in which the project enhanced the pupils’ learning that she asked me to help the department to develop further research projects  for Years 8 and 9.  Other departments showed interest and gradually I built up a programme of 12 separate projects for all pupils aged 11-14.  These are delivered as part of the schemes of work of the Physics, Chemistry, Geography, ICT and English departments.  The structure of the research followed the PLUS model developed by James Herring[2].

This year for the first time I experimented with using IL in a cross-curricular context in which Year 8 pupils (aged 12-13) used their IL skills and their subject knowledge from   different areas of the curriculum to solve a practical problem.  Several departments, including Physics, Mathematics, Design Technology, ICT, and Economics, came together under my leadership to design a project that required the pupils to design and build a model of a new footbridge to cross a local river.  The pupils were taken off their normal timetable for 3 days and worked in small companies of ten pupils each. Each company had to research, design, build, and market their bridge to a team of civil engineers from the firm of Mouchel-Parkman.  The adults acted only as supervisors and were not allowed to contribute in any way.  The engagement and enthusiasm of the pupils for the project was outstanding; all twelve teams completed the work to a very high standard. They showed both the staff and themselves that they have the learning skills to solve real problems, and the ability to work as a team to develop something new.


One of my concerns has been  that our pupils’ IL skills were not continuing to develop once they moved into Key Stage 4 (aged 14-16). During these years pupils are preparing for their GCSE examinations (General Certificate of Secondary Education) and staff are reluctant to ‘sacrifice time’ for project work. However, in the past several years two teachers have adapted the PLUS model as a method of teaching pupils to revise.  I have worked with them to create an electronic revision planning sheet  based on IL skills that pupils can download at home to help them to organise their revision. The response from the pupils to this work has been very positive.

Once students enter 6th form at age 16 they are expected to have the ability to work with  new information in quite sophisticated ways and to be able to be more independent in their learning.  At the start of their two-year course all of the 6th form students are given a series of  refresher sessions on IL, with a particular focus on using online resources and external information providers more effectively.  One of the greatest indicators of how well our IL programme develops our pupils’ independent learning skills is the ease with which most of them tackle these new challenges in 6th form.  Staff notice a huge difference between our existing pupils and those pupils who join the school in the 6th form in terms of their confidence in attempting independent work. 

Partly due to the success of the IL programme delivered to the younger pupils, this year the school has added the subject of Critical Thinking to the 6th form curriculum.  I have been asked to help to deliver this course as it is seen as a natural extension of the IL work that I already do with the younger pupils.  This is a very exciting addition to the programme of the IL skills opportunities already in place, and will ensure that our students leave the school more fully prepared to be life-long learners.


[1]  Office for Standards in Education,  Good School Libraries making a difference to learning.  (www.ofsted.gov.uk/publications/index.cfm?fuseaction=pubs.displayfile&id=4170&type=pdf  last accessed 2 September 2006).

[2]  James Herring,  The PLUS  Method,   ( http://farrer.csu.edu.au/PLUS/  last accessed 2 September 2006).


January 14, 2007 Posted by | 4. Issue 43, 5. Theme 43: Information Literacy, U.K. | Leave a comment

CrossEd: How University Libraries Support Information Literacy in Secondary Schools

Ray Lonsdale
Reader in Information Studies, Department of Information Studies, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, Wales. UK

Since 2002, I have been exploring the nature of collaborations that are taking place between secondary schools and universities in the UK regarding the provision of information literacy skilling relating to the use of electronic resources. The project, which is known as CrossEd, was the first of its kind in the UK, and explored an aspect of information literacy development which has received little attention internationally – namely, how teachers and school librarians might work university librarians with to help prepare young people to exploit electronic resources when they move into post-16 education (tertiary education).

Our study identified twenty university libraries which are actively involved in working with secondary schools, from which we selected six as the basis of our case studies. Six types of training for school pupils were identified which ranged from facilitating access to the university collections of digital resources (with basic induction training in exploiting the resources), to more sophisticated developmental projects. Some of these projects were initiated by subject departments while others covered a variety of subject fields. Characteristically, the courses involved young people coming to the university library for varying periods of time to undergo systematic training in a range of information literacy skills including awareness of different kinds of electronic resources, developing search strategies, evaluation skills and  higher level skills of synthesising newly acquired information with existing knowledge. University librarians, often working with academic staff, would use the innovative types of teaching and learning methods that the pupils would encounter in tertiary education. A common feature was the use of university students who would be have been attached to schools and trained to work with school pupils.

There was an overwhelming positive response to the benefits of collaboration. University librarians’ responses can be summarized into the following groups:

Influencing work in school

  • enhancing performance in the school
  • encounter teaching and learning methods adopted in tertiary education
  • expose students to large electronic resources of the university sector.


Conditioning for transition to tertiary education

  • encouraging pupils into tertiary education
  • easing the psychological stress of moving from secondary education to tertiary education
  • improving public relations.

Influencing work in university

  • pupils entering tertiary education would be offered a more level playing field if some instruction were done in school
  • facilitating greater and more appropriate use of e-resources in undergraduate and postgraduate education.

A major issue that we identified is the need for school and university librarians to develop a closer rapport, since there was considerable and demonstrable ignorance of each others’ work and of collaborative initiatives – something that we will explore further with the School Library Association

Contact details for further information:

Ray Lonsdale

Reader in Information Studies, Department of Information Studies, University of Wales, Aberystwyth,  Llanbadarn Fawr, Aberystwyth, SY23 3AS Wales. UK

Email: rel@aber.ac.uk

January 14, 2007 Posted by | 4. Issue 43, 5. Theme 43: Information Literacy, U.K., Wales | Leave a comment

School Librarians in the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland

By Karen Usher
South Hunsley School,
East Yorkshire


In neither the UK nor the Republic of Ireland are qualified, or even trained, School Librarians a legislative requirement. School inspections and standards do necessitate a school library. Many schools do have qualified staff due to local authority input and progressive Headteachers. Special initiatives may result in qualified librarians in schools, such as the Republic of Ireland’s special project for STATE (VEC run) disadvantaged schools has 11 schools a further 40 being phased in over a period of time, where full time qualified librarians have been provided. Reports often call for qualified librarians in schools, e.g. in 1999 the COSLA report “Standards for school library services in Scotland” recommended that all secondary schools should have the full time services of a Chartered or qualified librarian. Finance is one of the overriding factors in the provision of qualified librarians.

Qualified librarians do not necessarily have specialist training when they become School Librarians. Aberystwyth and Sheffield Universities in the UK offer modules, which are increasingly popular, that deal with children’s and school librarianship and children’s literature. They are optional modules. In the Republic of Ireland there is also a short module in a diploma course dealing with school librarianship.

The University of Ulster has a new course for School Librarians that is a day release course. Those who become school librarians often pursue training themselves on the job. There are a number of organisations that offer training on a variety of subjects. Both CILIP: School Libraries Group and the School Library Association hold weekend schools. Regional Branches of the SLA, CILIP: SLG and CILIP: Youth Libraries Group offer Day Schools of interest to school librarians and the SLA has an extensive and excellent publications programme. CILIP also publishes books relevant to school librarianship and makes representations at Government level on matters relating to school librarians. In the Republic of Ireland the SLARI offers 2 seminars a year, which include practical sessions. There have also been some summer courses in school librarianship from the Church of Ireland College of Education. From next year University College Dublin will be including a new module on school libraries in the syllabus for the Diploma in Library and Information Studies.

On the whole Primary Schools (children under 11) have a teacher in charge of the Library; in Secondary Schools (children up to 18) there is usually a Librarian. This age structure does vary around the UK. In the UK, in many counties, schools buy into their Local Authority’s School Library Service. In general an SLS will offer loan collections, special project collections, professional advice and, sometimes, training for schools. Those Schools that use SLS’s appreciate their excellent support services. Unfortunately SLS’s are not statutory and have to be run as business units with Schools ‘buying’ into their services. This has resulted in many Authorities shutting their SLS’s. Schools are then left to their own devices or have to buy into the services of neighbouring councils.

To promote librarians in 2005 the SLA launched ‘School Librarian of the Year’. Schools have to nominate their Librarians for this honour and there is a rigorous selection process. The Times Educational Supplement, a national weekly read by most teachers, features the School Librarian of the Year, thereby letting many teachers know what their school libraries and school librarians can do for them. There are efforts in the UK to promote reading as an activity to young people through schools and teachers. Teacher training now includes modules on children’s libraries and children’s literature – often this input is given by the local SLS. There are also numerous local Children’s Book Awards with children having a central role is choosing winners. CILIP has the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal Shadowing Scheme which involves over 1500 schools reading the same books as the Judges. World Book Day and National Children’s Book Week are also used by school librarians to promote reading. As with many countries there is a mixed picture of provision in the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland. Many organisations and individuals know what would constitute the best provision for our children in schools but it is the financial implication of instituting the best provision that militates against it. We must all keep trying to get the

January 8, 2007 Posted by | 2. Issue 42, 3. Theme:42: SL-education, Ireland, U.K. | Leave a comment